Gaming industry reform long overdue

14th March 2023
I had three very interesting meetings recently – one with the NSW Crime Commission, one with Clubs NSW and one with online betting giant SportsBet. I came

¿ Gaming reform and gambling advertising

¿ I had three very interesting meetings recently – one with the NSW Crime Commission, one with Clubs NSW and one with online betting giant SportsBet. I came away even stronger in my resolve that major reform is needed in the gambling sector.

¿ Anyone who saw Four Corners last night would understand why I have such a strong resolve to reform the gaming sector. As we head towards the March 25 election, I think it's important that people know where I stand on these issues and why, so here it is:

¿ I will continue to push for restrictions on gambling advertising, particularly those advertisements from online sports betting agencies which currently flood television and sports broadcasts. This is not a blanket ban on sports betting advertising but there should be restrictions, especially during childrens’ viewing times. This has of course been done historically with smoking and alcohol advertising.

¿ I absolutely support the introduction of a cashless gaming card for all of the State’s poker machines. This is a key recommendation of the NSW Crime Commission aimed at stopping crime syndicates from laundering billions of dollars of cash through pokies. Again, this is not a ban on pokies, it’s a simple mechanism which moves cash onto a card owned by a known person, such as an existing membership card, thereby closing the loophole exploited by anonymous crime syndicates to ‘wash’ their illegal billions.

¿ The mechanism to implement these changes including the timeframe should be developed through an inquiry or consultative process which brings together regulators, the affected industry including pubs and clubs and those groups/charities which deal with the harm from gambling. I had previously called for a Commission of Inquiry to do this.

¿ Donations to political parties and candidates by clubs, pubs, casinos, betting agencies and all of their respective lobby groups must be banned. It’s remarkable that it’s taken so long for the major parties to even think about standing up to the gambling lobby and rejecting their donations.

¿ There are 2335 poker machines in the Lake Macquarie LGA alone, and almost 87,000 statewide. The latest data shows that the turnover in each local machine was $670,762 (in the year to June 30 2021). Each machine made a profit of $57,880. That’s a turnover of $1,566,229,270 in Lake Macquarie alone and a profit of more than $135m in one year.

¿ There is no question that our local clubs and pubs are a vital part of our local community. They employ thousands of local people, donate several million dollars to community organisations and are the social outlet for many. No one disputes that. But they are also the last cash bastion for crime syndicates and we must get that under control. They are also places which can cause heartache for a growing number of problem gamblers, their families and friends, and we must take bigger steps towards harm minimisation so clubs can continue to exist in a less harmful way.

¿ We’re yet to see details of the Government’s full gaming policy but the Premier has flagged his support for a cashless gaming card and I fully back him on that. The Labor Opposition has also flagged some significant reform which I support, but Labor’s planned trial of a cashless gaming card is weak. A trial on 500 poker machines will obviously fail because crime syndicates will simply use the other 86,000 poker machines in NSW to continue doing what they’re doing.

¿ I won’t be supporting Labor’s policy until they get serious about reform and cashless gaming as recommended by the Crime Commission and every key stakeholder group in the state.

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